For motorcyclists who live in harsh climates, making sure your bike is stored properly before winter strikes is essential.

“If you don’t do something, later on you will experience big problems,” said David L. Hough, author of Proficient Motorcycling, “If you just like to park it and leave it you can expect a humongous bill to get it running later.”

Each model has its own requirements, but there are general guidelines that can help you make sure your bike is protected from cold weather as well as moisture, the number one enemy when temperatures drop.

Here are seven vital tips for safe motorcycle storage:

1. Choose a Good Winter Storage Site

Storing your vehicle indoors, particularly in a climate-controlled self-storage unit or a heated garage, will protect your bike from moisture, rust and corrosion.

“You don’t want to store it in a place that is cold and damp,” said Marc Zimmerman, author of The Essential Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance.

If you’ve invested a lot of money in your motorcycle or spent a great deal of time restoring it, storing it indoors will protect your investment. Mike Johnson, a mechanic at Al’s Cycle Shop, Inc. in Los Angeles, says it’s important to keep your bike away from the elements.

2. Clean Your Motorcycle Well

Prevent motorcycle rust

It may seem unnecessary to clean your motorcycle when you plan to put it in storage for several months, but it’s important to remove insects and dirt that can damage your bike’s finish, said Zimmerman.

“Dirt can trap moisture,” Zimmerman said.

  • Wash your bike, take your time drying it to make sure it’s completely free of moisture.
  • For added protection, add a coat of wax to fight rust.
  • Spray exposed metal surfaces with WD-40, a product that protects against moisture. “WD-40 keeps everything from rusting,” said Johnson.
  • Another part to clean well is your carburetors. These get covered in oil when you ride your bike. Dirty carburetors will get gunky over winter due to the cold weather.

3. Prep the Fuel System

To prevent rust in your gas tank, use a fuel stabilizer product.

“The best stuff to use in my experience is STA-BIL,” said Zimmerman. After adding it to your fuel, Zimmerman said to let the engine run a few minutes to circulate the stabilizer through the fuel system.”

A full tank will keep moisture from building up on tank walls. However, some people prefer to remove the fuel completely. Tom Scarda, a motorcycle enthusiast who describes himself as “an old Harley guy” recommends draining the gas tank and fuel lines before your bike goes into storage.

Either way you want to avoid condensation build up on the inside of your fuel tank. A climate-controlled storage environment will also help keep this from happening during the off season.

4. Change the Oil

 Consider draining your gas tank and fuel lines before storing your motorcycle.

It’s important to change your engine oil and filter before storing your bike.

“I personally like to change the oil before putting her to bed for the winter,” said Scarda. “I don’t want to leave any gunk in the engine.”

  • After adding new oil, Zimmerman recommends that you run your bike for a short time to circulate fresh oil throughout the engine.
  • During the oil change, make sure your coolant system has enough anti-freeze to protect it from freezing during the winter.

“Whether you are storing or riding it, you always want to have good antifreeze or your engine could corrode,” said Johnson.

5. Check the Tires

It’s a mistake to forget about your tires when you winterize your bike. If you do, you may have to replace them in the spring.

  • Check the front and rear tires to make sure they’re properly inflated to the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer.
  • To prevent flat spots on tires, use a center stand that takes weight off of the wheels and rotate the front tire every few weeks.
  • To prevent tire rubber from cracking, some motorcyclists place cardboard or wood under each tire. The idea is to make sure the tire surface doesn’t come in contact with a floor that has dropped to freezing temperatures.

Following these steps will make sure that your tires are ready to roll come spring time.

6. Beware of Rodents

 Proper care during storage will help your tires survive the winter in storage.

If you’re not careful, your motorcycle may become home for critters looking for a warm place to rest. To get away from the cold, mice the often take refuge in exhaust pipes.

In some cases mice may crawl into the engine, Zimmerman said. “Mice urine is highly acidic.”

To keep rodents out of your motorcycle, you can cover your pipes with an exhaust plug or place something in the ends of the pipes such as a plastic bag.

“Steel wool works really well,” said Zimmerman.

Placing a motorcycle cover over your bike will both discourage rodents and keep dust off the engine.

7. Mind the Battery

Your battery may drain after months of disuse, especially in cold temperatures. To save your battery, disconnect it from the bike and connect it to a trickle charger. This will keep it charged up over the winter months, so you can hit the open road without delay.

If you’re looking for a place to store your motorcycle, SpareFoot can help you find self-storage at a reasonable price. 

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Emmet Pierce